Emergency -

University of South Florida

The Headache Before the Storm

One can find so many pains when the rain is falling.
John Steinbeck

If your body is telling you that a storm is on the horizon, you are not alone. Since the beginning of time, the elements have been blamed for a myriad of physical ailments, including headaches.

As major weather systems blow in, so does the onset of barometric pressure, which can trigger migraine headaches.

These variations in the atmosphere, temperature fluctuations, and changes in humidity, high and low atmospheric pressure are often to blame for headaches as they cause blood vessels in the brain contract and expand. According to Dr. Janice Maldonado, headache specialist with the Department of Neurology at USF Health. “Every migraine patient will likely have a unique set of triggers for migraine and different weather factors are certainly reported,” Dr. Maldonado said. “Some patients may not be aware that there can be strategies to mitigate migraines brought on by weather changes.”

Everyone knows a “human barometer,” someone who can often accurately predict that a tropical storm is on its way because they get a barometric pressure headache. This person describes their headaches as a feeling of pressure in the face and as if someone is pressing down on their head, accompanied by the sensation that “the air is being sucked out of the air.” If you experience more headaches during hurricane season, and suspect that the weather may be triggering your symptoms, there are many who share the same school of thought.

Simply stated, barometric pressure is the amount of force or pressure from the air that impacts your body. Shifts in air pressure have the potential to affect our sinus cavities, due to the fact that our sinuses are filled with air. This can explain why certain people feel pressure on her face and head.

Although we do not have the ability to change weather patterns, there are preventative measures we can take to ward off or lessen headache intensity, such as:

Limiting caffeine intake
Exercising regularly
Limiting alcohol
Avoiding sensory overload, fluorescent or bright lighting, potent smells, loud noises
Treating hormonal changes
Limiting screen time on all devices
Making smart food choices, for example avoiding food rich in MSG, nitrates, and artificial sweeteners.
If headaches persist, it is always important to see your doctor to determine the cause and establish a course of treatment.

For more information regarding headaches and recommended treatments visit https://health.usf.edu/care/neurology/services-specialties/headache-painmed

Written by Ercilia Colón

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